This week’s post is a bit peculiar as I wanted to do it on a Final Fantasy character: Gilgamesh. He is a character that you can find in a lot of Final Fantasy games, though he is not always exactly the same in each of them.
He made his first appearance in Final Fantasy V, as the right hand of Exdeath, the villain & final boss of the game. The image above is how he is, though it is the art from the Dissidia game. Gilgamesh actually has an other form, in which he has multiple arms. I know how weird it sounds, but trust me, I am not kidding. Here is the example from Final Fantasy V:
What’s peculiar about this character is, obviously, the number of his arms, but also the fact that he is not really a villain. Yes, he was the right hand man of a villain, but he is just a skilled swordsman that likes to challenge people… and steal their weapons.
In some Final Fantasy games, he is also a bit of a clumsy fool, and at first you would think he is an imbecile. Well, he’s not. For example in Final Fantasy XII you meet him for a quest and when he makes his entrance… it’s a failure. The dog you see in the beginning of the video is his partner (Enkidu), though I haven’t seen him in other Final Fantasy games.
Gilgamesh also has the tendency to run away. When I was playing on my 3DS Final Fantasy Explorers, he would try to run away when I was about to kill him. That was so annoying. He was also some kind of clown in the game, and a bit stupid. He’s not a bad guy, really.
You can also find him in Final Fantasy XIII-2 but it’s a downloadable part of the game, and he even breaks the fourth wall, which makes him even more amazing. I love the fact that he tries to fight with guns thinking he’s trendy though ends up fighting with swords. Gilgamesh also makes his appearance in Final Fantasy XV in a DLC (downloadable content), however he is quite different.
If you want to know more about Gilgamesh, I suggest you watch Mrhappy1227’s video, in which you can learn more details about this character.
His theme is well-known and has been covered differently depending on the Final Fantasy games. The original is Final Fantasy V. For your own pleasure, here is the rest:
- Final Fantasy XII (my favourite)
- Final Fantasy XIII-2, which is so Japanese & marvelous
- Final Fantasy XIV
- Final Fantasy XV (really dark)
As you may have realised, they all have the same name: “Battle on the Big Bridge”, and that’s because it is where you encounter him in Final Fantasy V, so the same name was kept. I know there are a lot of themes, and I actually did not know what to choose at first. I thought taking the original might be better so this is the orchestral version I chose:
As usual, this is how I divided the musical piece:
- 0:00-0:17 Introduction
- 0:17-0:44 Part A
- 0:44-1:30 Chorus
- 1:30-1:45 Part B
- 1:45-2:00 Part A’
- 2:00-2:45 Chorus
- 2:45-2:57 Part B
- 2:57-3:10 Ending (Coda)
For your information, it is repetitive as there is twice the same Chorus, and Parts A & B. Part A’ is Part A but shorter, so I won’t dwell on that.
From the first notes, you notice how free it is. There are the wind instruments & the violins, playing something virtuosic indicating the skilled swordsman Gilgamesh is, playing the same notes while ascending and descending rapidly from one to another. It also brings delicacy and agility to our character. There are no drums for the moment, so all these movements are not controlled by them, which enhances the free-will, also enhanced by the other instruments. There are brass instruments such as trumpets, tuba and they all play something different. Trumpets are about quick notes from time to time, and the tuba plays long notes – same as the choirs – and seems a bit aggressive (he’s a warrior, after all).
The choirs bring powerfulness as we usually think about this Godly feature it transfers, and the introduction is actually uncontrollable in my view. There are too many things at the same time, too many instruments, so much that you do not know what to focus on. This plurality of instruments made me think about Gilgamesh’s arms. He can do plenty things at the same time and this is what happens here: lots of instruments playing different things.
Part A (0:17-0:44)
First, the wind instruments & violins play the same thing except between 0:26-0:29 and 0:34-0:38 that I will talk about in a few. The piano and the tuba are the bass here, and the drums can be heard almost as the same time as the choirs, with also the trumpets. It is less uncontrollable than the introduction, simply because we only have these two groups.
Between 0:26 and 0:29 it’s forte and the ensemble is playing the same thing, as if to make an emphasis. I have an impression of rushing things, and it is sudden: it gives more punch and it pictures Gilgamesh as being a surprising character and a violent one. Indeed, he is a swordsman. The instruments you hear here are the violins, the brass instruments, and the drums.
Between 0:38 and 0:44 now the theme is played by the brass instruments, accompanied by the drums, and the violins setting the tempo. The violins brings some dissonance, some kind of tension, and the drums some suspense and then to our chorus.
Chorus (0:44-1:30) + (2:00-2:45)
From 0:44 to 0:56, the tuba, violins and the xylophone are following the same theme, which is the main theme. What’s weird here is the fact that you have, again, several different things at the same time. This is due to his multiple arms, and all this represent the complexity of the character. The flutes are on their own playing rapid and dissonant notes, the trumpets also are on their own though sometimes following a bit the drums, who are playing their own part. To tell you the truth, I was actually a bit lost at this moment, trying to find every instrument, what they’re doing, etc. That took me some time, but it is due to the complexity of this character. Here you have too many things so much that you are confused, and it’s like a draft where there is nothing concrete and explicit. Even the main theme (played by violins + tuba + xylophone) does not seem to be leading here even though he should, because everything is a mess.
From 0:56 to 1:02, the choirs arrive and stand by the tuba & violins, the drums play rapid notes (4/pulsation), the flutes are still dissonant and play rapid notes, the trumpets are hazardous and in the end it is still a draft and lacks precision. However, it gets more definite after that (1:02-1:14), with the violins & the choirs together, the drums are calmer, and the trumpets join them. The theme is clearer, and more powerful than ever. As you can see, the theme is actually performed by several instruments, as if the instruments were his weapons and he was changing them. At 1:14 the tuba is leading, accompanied by the violins, descending along the flutes until 1:20 where the wind instruments (+ xylophone) lead. It shows how adaptable the character is.
The virtuosity is showed, again, at 1:23 with the piano, accompanied by the viola and the flutes, and at 1:26 the other instruments follow them and it leads to our Part B.
Part B (1:30-1:45) + (2:45-2:57)
Since 1:23 to 1:36, it is heroic but it changes right after that: there is some kind of transition from 1:36 to 1:42 with the harp doing glissandos (again the virtuosic aspect), the flutes are dissonant, and the drums are light here. There is no theme whatsover, it is a bit confusing and it denotes anxiety which works well as it is supposed to be a battle. However it changes quickly and at 1:42 we hear again a part of the theme, as if to remind it to us.
At first the French horn has the lead, then it’s the tuba, accompanied by the drums… resembling those from the Boléro, composed by Maurice Ravel if you really pay attention to it (until 3:04)! To conclude the piece, the main theme is played at the end, with actually the ensemble of the instruments, making it even more heroic as it also ends all of a sudden.
As I said before, the piece is hard to follow sometimes with the overall of “voices”, meaning that the instruments participating play something different – their own thing on their own free will – which shows that Gilgamesh himself is such a complicated character.
There are lots of instruments, changing rapidly from one to another, with the theme being lead by several of them. It is not really precise, it confuses you and it points out his multiple arms and weapons he uses.
However, the musical piece is so virtuosic and fast sometimes, that it enhances the fact that he is a skilled warrior. The choirs add the heroic feature, amplified when the orchestra is full and doing the theme: Gilgamesh is indeed no hero nor a villain, but it demonstrates his powerfulness.